A new state law allows school districts to move their school board elections to November, from April, and keep the school district budget off of the ballot, provided the spending plan doesn't exceed a 2 percent increase.
Proponents call it a way to save money by combining elections and to possibly increase voter turnout for school board elections. Some critics have decried removing direct voter input from the school budget—usually the largest chunk of taxpayers' tax bills.
Last week, Collingswood's school board vote to move the elections. Borough Beeswax asked Collingswood residents and visitors for their thoughts on the impact of this issue.
“If it saves money, I would be for it,” said Audubon mother Kelly Paoli.
Paoli, who says she votes in school board elections, thinks voters who don’t usually turn out “would make the time to go” if Board of Education candidates were added to the general ballot.
Sam Shin, who recently moved to Collingswood from Philadelphia, agreed with her logic.
“Seems like it makes sense,” Shin said.
“As far as I understand, they’ll still have meetings and people can have input on the budget,” said Collingswood resident Francesca Vassalluzzo, who confesses that she’s “not really good about” remembering to vote for school board elections.
“It would make it easier to do it at the same time,” she said.
Condensing the school board and general elections “seems to simplify things,” said Marlton resident Elijah Smith, who believes that combined elections would elicit “a variety of input.”
“One-stop shopping,” said his wife, Tracey.
Jaclyn Bazan of Woodbury expressed relief at the prospect that her school district budget could be preserved without running the gauntlet of a public referendum.
Bazan said that in her town, the April school board elections are popular with “senior citizens and people who want to vote it down” almost exclusively.
The anti-tax climate has directly affected her daughter Mia’s classroom, Bazan said, where she’s seen “things dwindle” and “amazing teachers laid off.”
“A lot of people claim to support schools, but don’t get out to do it,” she said.
Bill Jaworski of Medford had the opposite view. Although the public school budget is one of the last remaining referendums in local politics, Jaworski believes it should still be put to the vote.
“I think we should be able to vote on the budget even within 2 percent,” he said. “What else can they take away from us?”